Last month, I had an experience filled with highs and lows. But in my mind, I really struggled to remember the highs.
It’s interesting how, we, as human beings, can often struggle to see the good. Even when there is so much of it.
In my last entry, I basically alluded to writing more often this year. I apologise that this hasn’t been the case. This blogging hiatus has actually been due to finishing my Youth Work diploma! In a passionate effort to get out there and start making more of a difference in the lives of young people, I have been busy finalising my work placements and assignments. I received Distinctions across the whole course and have been juggling all this with my parental responsibilities, home life and the personal journey that I have been on for the past two years.
So, last month, I had my first job interview in nine years. I spent hours writing a statement addressing the selection criteria. I edited my resume until it was just right. I studied the organisation. I prepared notes to possible job questions. I made sure I knew exactly where the building was located and where to park. I ironed my suit two nights before. I prepared as much as anybody could prepare for an event that was important and so significant to them.
During this first interview in nine years, there were highs. I spoke with passion and enthusiasm. I talked about the positive experiences I’d had helping young people living with mental illness. I talked about situations where I’d provided advocacy for young people. I talked about my own lived experiences and how, despite my own pain, I have lived a very well functioning and fulfilled life.
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But, in the midst of my passion and enthusiasm, I was feeling incredibly nervous. I stumbled over some questions. I ummed and ahhed when I didn’t know the answer to a question.
When I walked away from the interview room, so much doubt cast in the back of my mind. I told myself, “Oh no, that went horrible. There’s no way I’m getting that job.” I asked myself, “Why did I say that?” I was annoyed with myself. I felt like I’d thrown away the one opportunity I had to be working for an organisation whose values aligned so well with mine.
After I took a deep breath and thought it over, I realised that I’d been thinking about it all wrong. Yes, there were parts of my interview that could’ve gone down a better direction. But there was plenty to be proud of.
As I reflected, I remembered that I’d spoken with so much enthusiasm and passion. I saw the look of approval from the three women interviewing me. I saw the way they nodded in agreement, the way they scribbled down all the experiences I’d shared with young people, the way they could relate to how much I cared about people when I spoke about the times I had walked alongside youth going through hard times in their life.
The day I got the phone call to inform me about the job, I knew what the result would be. But what I wasn’t prepared for – was the ‘bad’ news being delivered in such a way that I wouldn’t believe it was bad news at all.
One of the lovely ladies who interviewed me said, “Firstly, we want to thank you for coming in. After some time to think about it, we have chosen who we feel is the most suitable person for the position. Unfortunately, that wasn’t you. However, we were really impressed with your interview and we would like to add you into our pool.”
The lady proceeded to tell me, “Your resume was good. Your interview was good. What really stood out was your honesty. You came across very honest in your interview and that’s what really mattered. We were hoping you would say yes to the pool.”
I was, yes, a bit disappointed that I hadn’t gotten the job. But I was far from disappointed with what this interviewer had told me.
She had basically told me, despite the trauma I faced as a child and on my own for 20 years, despite being told that I had to change for other people, despite being told all my life that I am “too nice”, that “you shouldn’t care about people so much”, that “you shouldn’t open up to people – they will just hurt you!” – that who I truly am is more than fine.
That I am perfect just the way that I am.
In a nerve-wracking situation like a job interview, almost every aspect of you is evaluated. How you address your interviewer from the very beginning. How you answer questions. How you sit, even. And as you sit there nervous and anxious, you how much you want that job, you know how important your answers are. And you are doing everything you can to make the best impression possible.
Yet, despite all that expected anxiety, despite it being my first job interview in nine years (my first after having my first child!), I was able to show three people I had never met before that I was worthy of their time. I was worthy of that position. I was worthy of being a part of their organisation.
In the past two years, I have been constantly asked, “How?! How did you stay silent for 20 years and live such a happy life?” “How were you able to have a happy marriage and raise three young children and be so happy?” “How were you able to experience one of the most traumatic experiences possible, by someone you trusted, and still believe there is so much good in the world?”
My simple answer is: I never stopped being who I am.
I am an honest, genuine and approachable person. I am a person who will take time out of their day to listen to someone’s problems. I am a person who will notice the good things about people, about situations, about places. I am a person who, in the most difficult of times, will always have it in their heart to make you smile. I am that person. I have been that person my whole life.
And it’s because of this love and empathy for people, that my belief in humanity has never ceased to exist.
There is so much struggle, pain, destruction, war, discrimination that I consciously choose every day not to be a part of it.
Please don’t be afraid to be who you are. Don’t let society, peers, media, the toxic people around you try to mould you into someone different.
Don’t let the pain of the past turn you bitter, resentful and doubt who you are inside.
I am thankful that I have a husband who loves me just the way that I am. I am thankful that I have children who appreciate everything I do for our family. I have friends who love me for who I am and feel so grateful to have me in their lives. I have in-laws who are happy when I am happy because my happiness is all that matters to them.
And I have the most important person loving me for who I am – and that person is myself.